Health & You: Seniors & Swimming
By: Dr. Pool
Exercise is important for all ages. For older adults, it’s no different; exercise is essential. It can take many forms, and for seniors there are multiple activities such as Tai Chi, Yoga, running, walking and swimming.
Does swimming really hold benefits for seniors or are there better workouts that seniors can utilize in their everyday lives?
Let’s take a closer look at the facts and figures surrounding swimming for senior citizens.
- Injuries From Falls
- Exercising for Seniors
- Swimming & Seniors
Injuries From Falls
As we age, we become more prone to injuries. Injury is a serious threat to many, but especially for senior citizens. Older adults are more prone to injuries that can lead to disability or death. This is not to say that there is nothing we can do about it; we can still take action as preventative measures.
For seniors, certain areas of the body are more fragile, such as the hip. Hip fractures from simple falls can lead to nursing home admission, increased mortality and long-term functional impairment. Many deaths related to falls stem from the complications of a hip fracture. One out of five hip fracture patients actually dies within a year of the injury.
Three out of every four hip fractures occur in women, and white women are more likely to sustain a hip fracture than women of other races. In both genders, hip fracture rates increase with age, and seniors who are 85 and older are 15 times more likely to experience a fracture than a 65 year old.
How can falls be prevented? Exercise regularly – especially exercise that has an emphasis on increasing the leg strength and improving balance. Other ways to prevent falls include having vision checked annually, reducing tripping hazards in and around tubs, showers, pools and other areas of the house. To lower the risk of fracture, take calcium and vitamin D supplements, engage in weight bearing exercises and get screened for osteoporosis.
Exercising for Seniors
It is important to maintain a routine in our lives, since it allows us to feel we are needed or have a purpose. Additionally, exercising helps burn fat, build muscle and release endorphins into the bloodstream.
There are four different types of exercise that can really benefit older adults. Endurance or aerobic activities include exercises such as walking, jogging, dancing, biking and swimming. These exercises increase the heart rate and respiration rate. Strength exercises work the muscles, and they include lifting weights to build strength. Balance exercises help prevent falls. Flexibility exercises help by stretching muscles to help the body stay limber.
Studies show that staying active helps to prevent disease and disability. Exercise is an effective and powerful treatment for many chronic conditions. Seniors who suffer from arthritis, diabetes or heart disease can benefit from regular exercise. Meanwhile, being inactive can be a gamble. While some hesitate to exercise, studies show that rapid deterioration occurs when seniors are not active.
Regular activity can manage stress and improve mood as well. Being active on a regular basis can reduce feelings of depression and improve cognitive functions. Physical activity and exercise is not necessarily the same thing – physical activities get your body moving such as taking stairs, gardening or walking the dog. “Exercise” is physical activity that is planned ahead and repetitive in nature, such as swimming, Tai Chi or yoga. Utilizing a mixture of both physical activity and exercise is highly beneficial and recommended.
With age comes a greater importance for an active lifestyle. Regular exercise boosts energy and maintains independence, while managing symptoms of illness or pain. Exercise even reverses some symptoms of aging! Exercise is great for the mind as well, as it helps preserve and boost memory. It can also improve your mood and confidence, in addition to helping you feel younger, regardless of age.
Exercise can also help improve sleep patterns, by helping you fall asleep faster and giving you better rest with deeper sleep. Always remember when starting any exercise program to begin slowly. It’s never beneficial to begin by going all out in the early stages of working out, especially if you are used to be inactive. Take advantage of warming up before exercising and cooling down afterwards to prevent extreme fatigue. Commit to a schedule of exercising and motivate yourself by setting short-term goals.
How can you find an exercise that is safe and beneficial? As we age it gets harder to rely on high impact exercises such as running, because of pain in the joints. Low impact exercise that prevents stress on our joints is recommended, such as swimming.
Swimming & Seniors
Swimming increases oxygen distribution to the entire body. Water exercise studies show swimming helps reduce body fat, tones muscles and increases the lean muscle stamina and endurance. Swimming is beneficial because it activates all large muscle groups of the body, while other exercises isolate fewer muscles.
Swimming in particular is a great activity because it is easy on the joints, increases flexibility, tones and shapes muscles, reduces the risks of osteoporosis and heart disease and engages a healthy state of mind. While on the treadmill or going for a jog you can experience discomfort in ankles, knees and hips, but swimming exercises without pressure on the joints. Improved flexibility can allow for greater posture, less soreness and a low rate of injuries.
Because water is about twelve times denser than air, it is safe to say that you will be putting all of your muscles to work when you are in the water. Every stroke and leg kick builds up the muscles and reduces fat stores. Balance exercises are safe and simple to do in the pool, without fear of falling.
Fractures from osteoporosis occur in one-fifth of men studied. While bone density decreases as we age, the risk of osteoporosis is lower for those who regularly exercise. Swimming increases bone density, in essence, fighting osteoporosis. Swimming is an aerobic activity that helps fight heart disease as well. The mental benefits of swimming include relieving stress and improving the mood. Senior swimmers interact with others socially at a public pool and feel less isolated.
Swimming activities is one of the most beneficial and effective form of physical exercise available for seniors. What’s nice about being in a pool is that you don’t even have to use certain strokes or swimming techniques. Any simple water workout qualifies as good exercise.
Water walking is an excellent exercise. Just being in the water and either walking, dancing or kicking is helpful. The increase in strength originates in the resistance that is achieved when in water and is easier to experience than when on land. For seniors, swimming is more efficient and effective than land based exercises.
The American Heart Association has published guidelines for physical activity for older adults, which advises adults to be involved with moderate intensity aerobic activity for 30 minutes a day, five days per week. Swimming pool water exercises can easily meet this mandate.
Get your Swim On, America!